10 Tips on Leading a Student Committee
Get to know your team – Each individual ran for their position with a different manifesto. Find out what makes each committee member tick and what changes they really want to make; together you can have one strong mandate rather than a chaotic committee pursuing different directions.
Own it! – People tend to put more effort into something they feel they own, so give ownership of your society to your committee. Encourage them to take responsibility and pride in their roles on the team. This means getting committee socials going early and regularly. Soon you’ll notice your committee refer to your society as ‘us’ and ‘we’ rather than ‘it’.
Harness the power of social media – Join Twitter and follow your Students’ Union, your Faculty and other students. This will allow you to interact with your audience on a regular basis. I have found that these days, students like to communicate via Snapchat stories and this is a perfect platform for keeping your society members up to date. This tool allows you to remind people about events, share success and update them with news without spamming them. After all, it’s up to you whose story you click on.
Engage with your audience – It’s very easy to get stuck in an echo chamber when you’re running a committee, especially a senior one like MedSoc or Course Reps. It’s important to actively and frequently speak to the people who voted for you to find out whether what you’re providing is what they want.
Seeking support doesn’t make you weak – Often we find ourselves in these roles with no little or no prior experience, so understandably we can get lost in them. No one will think any less of you if you chat to your predecessors about problems you’re having. Do this early to try to avoid major issues that could affect the trust people have in your committee.
Keep everyone on the same page – Running a large committee means that sometimes you’ll have private conversations with some committee members with issues that might not affect everyone or there isn’t time to discuss at general meetings. Make sure you regularly brief your team on these conversations that are happening to try to prevent cliques forming within your committee and to encourage everyone to feel equally involved. In student committees, people tend to talk amongst themselves so make sure united and accurate information is going out from your mouth rather than hearsay.
Make some noise – This is another point of communication. Over the years, I’ve heard students do some incredible work but not make it known to the members they represent. Post on social media, congratulate team members and the students you’re serving so everyone feels valued. Let your Faculty and your Union know about the talent you have. Showcase your work and set an example for other societies around you.
Develop your team – In student committees, people come from all walks of life and across all year groups. This will give you access to a diverse set of skills within your team – maximise those. More importantly, use this as an opportunity to teach and share skills that others may wish to learn. Student societies aren’t always about give, give, give. People want to take something away and personally develop themselves too and this is a prime opportunity to cater for that.
Evaluate. Evaluate. Evaluate. – It’s a good skill to have. Make sure you can measure the outcome of your committee’s work, as this is crucial in order to evolve and to show students, the Faculty and sponsors how effective you are. People will take you more seriously when you have accurately measured statistics rather than produced estimations.
Sustainability – It’s great when your committee is excelling and the members of your society are really happy with your year’s work but don’t let the progress you have made in your year on committee go to waste. As you know, university won’t last forever and your roles won’t either, so make sure you’re prepared for that. Roughly six months before the end of your role you should start scouting for successors. Remember you were democratically elected into this position so don’t just nurture one person for it. Identify potential people and encourage them to take on your role and build on your success.
Jahangir is a Final Year Medical Student at the University of Southampton. Previously, he was the President of Southampton MedSoc and the co-founder of an award-winning widening access initiative in Wessex. Jahangir is currently a Council Member (elect) at the BMA and is soon to start his Foundation Programme in LNR.